I used to use a basic cider stew recipe, but one day about 25 years ago, I went to make it and found I was out of apple cider. I did have a packet of spiced cider mix, from a holiday gift basket, though. My family loved it, so I experimented further with the recipe. I've been buying the spiced cider packets ever since, just for stew. I find it year round, usually on the top shelf of the unrefrigerated juice aisle, at the grocery store. We've tried many other good stew recipes over the years, but this is the one, with its fluffy dumplings, that my family calls comfort food. The dumplings are optional, and I still use the recipe found in my first Betty Crocker cookbook.